Grayshott Gardeners were privileged to take part in a private tour conducted by Head of Nursery Martin Einchcomb, who donated his time in return for a donation to the Perennial charity.
he Nursery comprises 15 glasshouses covering one acre, and the team of 7 (helped by volunteers) produces plants for 60 acres of formal gardens at the Hampton Court and Kensington Palaces.
Following a brief introduction, Martin conducted us past an array of tropical and semi-tropical plants, the famous Exoticks Collection originally started by Queen Mary II, parts of which survived until the First World War when lack of manpower and attention led to the last plants dying out. Since 1987, the Gardens & Estate team and lately Martin, have devoted much time and effort in researching the specimens in Mary’s collection and bringing them back once more to Hampton Court. It is one of the three National Plant Collections at Hampton Court and has now been recogni
Other glasshouses contained masses of bedding plants not usually seen at garden centres but well-known to the Victorians, as most of the plants produced here are destined to fit in with the historic settings of the Palaces, flowering in (what now seem) old-fashioned colours. These include pelargoniums, lantanas, and also coleus with vivid colour variations in the leaves.
Hampton Court holds two other National Plant Collections, Lantana, whose many cultivars have flowers that change their colour (from yellow to white and orange to purple) as they mature, and Heliotropoium, or the Cherry Pie Plant (its purple flowers smell of cherries and vanilla).
Yet another glasshouse we were shown contains the Citrus collection, showing off their oranges and lemons – these normally tender trees had been put into period-appropriate pots which the Nursery has specifically made for display in their formal settings during the summer.
Martin told us that the original Victorian glasshouses had been destroyed to make way for more modern and efficient ones during the 60’s and 70’s; like the Victorian ones, they have been overtaken by later designs and technology, but lack of funds mean the latter remain an item on the team’s wish list for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the Nursery manages to grow 40% of the bedding plants from cuttings and seed, and the remaining 60% from tiny plug plants which are cheaper and more efficient to buy in, a credit to the staff, and proof of what can be achieved with devotion and skill, even without the latest technology.
The tour ended with a brief survey of the workshops and tractor and machinery shed containing trolleys to move large trays and tables, and for picking up (very heavy) tubs; we also saw the machine for automatically filling pots with compost.
Thanking Martin for his interesting explanations and tips, most members of the group then departed for lunch in the cafeteria or outside on the terrace, as it was a lovely sunny day.
There was an opportunity to enjoy fee access to the Rose Garden (not out yet but containing plenty of interesting bedding plants and tulips) as well as the extensive Kitchen Garden, origininally established for William III and Mary II in 1689 on the site of Henry Viii’s tiltyard, with its numerous fruit trees and bushes.
Others explored the Palace itself, and the more Formal Gardens, while some sneaked down to the river to watch the Royal Swans and enjoy a drink by the side of the River Thames : )